Breathing Seattle’s air right now is like smoking 7 cigarettes. Blame wildfires.

Breathing Seattle’s air right now is like smoking 7 cigarettes. Blame wildfires.

SOURCE: Vox DATE: August 22, 2018 SNIP: Ash and smoke are choking Seattle’s air for the second week in a row, as wildfires smolder in the Cascades and in British Columbia. The air quality in Seattle this week has been worse than in Beijing, one of the world’s most notoriously polluted cities. As of Wednesday morning, the Air Quality Index in Seattle was at 190, a rating classified as “unhealthy.” In parts of the city, the index rose as high as 220, which is “very unhealthy.” Other parts of Puget Sound, like Port Angeles, Washington — 80 miles from Seattle — saw the AQI rise to 205 this week. To put it in perspective, an AQI of 150 is roughly equal to smoking seven cigarettes in a day. People breathing air this unhealthy should avoid being outside and exerting themselves, particularly people with heart and lung problems, the elderly, and children. Fires are a major source of air pollution, in rural and urban areas. Fires from crop burning in India last year helped make Delhi the most polluted city on earth. Though wildfires throw off particles of all shapes and sizes, the biggest health dangers come from the smallest ones, 2.5 microns or less in diameter. Known as PM2.5, these particles penetrate deep into the airways, causing inflammation, asthma attacks, and cancer. In Seattle, the concentrations on PM2.5 reached 157 milligrams per cubic meter. “When pollution is very high, over 37 [micrograms per cubic meter], we start to see health consequences,” Jia Coco Liu, a postdoctoral researcher studying air quality at Johns Hopkins University...
Canada’s British Columbia wildfires prompt state of emergency

Canada’s British Columbia wildfires prompt state of emergency

SOURCE: BBC News DATE: August 15, 2018 SNIP: A state of emergency has been declared by the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) as it battles more than 560 wildfires. It will be in place across the entire western province for at least 14 days. Hot and dry conditions, with a risk of thunderstorms in some parts of BC, are expected to continue over the coming days. This is the second year in a row the province has battled significant wildfires on parts of its territory. Over 3,000 people are under evacuation orders and another 18,700 are under evacuation alerts. Fires are active throughout entire parts of the...
Glacier National Park is on fire — and yes, warming is making things worse

Glacier National Park is on fire — and yes, warming is making things worse

SOURCE: Grist DATE: August 13, 2018 SNIP: This summer has felt like a global warming turning point. Now, another milestone: Saturday was the hottest day in the history of Glacier National Park, and its first recorded time reaching 100 degrees F. On the same day, lightning started three fires in the Montana park, which has since been partly evacuated and closed. On Sunday, hot and dry winds helped the biggest fire expand rapidly. Authorities have taken extreme measures, including deploying smokejumpers and dispatching firefighters by foot to reach the parts of the fire in rough terrain. So far, according to the National Park Service, these efforts have not been effective to slow the fire’s spread. Right now, every state west of the Mississippi is at least partly in drought, including Montana. Missoula, the closest major city to Glacier National Park, hasn’t had any measurable rain for 40 days, and none is in the short-term forecast either — a streak that will likely wind up being the driest stretch in local recorded history, beating a mark set just last year. It’s clear that Montana is already becoming a vastly different place. In recent decades, warmer winters have helped mountain pine beetles thrive, turning mountains red with dead pines. In 1850, there were 150 glaciers in the area now known as Glacier National Park. Today there are 26. They’ve been there for 7,000 years — but in just a few decades, the glaciers of Glacier National Park will almost surely be gone. By then the park will need a new name. Glacier Memorial Park doesn’t have the same ring to it....
California’s Carr Fire may have unleashed the most intense fire tornado ever observed in the U.S.

California’s Carr Fire may have unleashed the most intense fire tornado ever observed in the U.S.

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: August 3, 2018 SNIP: A tornado? Scary. Wildfire? Horrific. A tornado made out of fire? Just about the most terrifying thing Mother Nature can whip up. On July 26, the Carr Fire near Redding, Calif., unleashed a vortex with winds so strong it uprooted trees and stripped away their bark. On Thursday, the National Weather Service estimated the fire-induced tempest packed winds in excess of 143 mph. Such wind strength is equivalent to an EF3 tornado, on the 0-to-5 scale for twister intensity. “This is historic in the U.S.,” Craig Clements, director of San Jose State University’s Fire Weather Research Laboratory, told BuzzFeed News. “This might be the strongest fire-induced tornado-like circulation ever recorded.” While the National Weather Service forecast office in Sacramento described the vortex as a fire whirl, our analysis suggests this was an actual tornado. Fire whirls are much more common. They are the equivalent of dust devils and shed off by large wildfires by the hundreds. But this vortex’s rapidly-rotating updraft that was embedded in cloud-based rotation bore the hallmarks of a textbook tornado. The funnel produced tornado-like damage, too. It tore trees from the ground, destroyed additional structures and even collapsed/twisted large high-tension electrical...
How climate change is making disasters like the Carr Fire more likely

How climate change is making disasters like the Carr Fire more likely

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: July 30, 2017 SNIP: Firefighters are waging war against 17 wildfires that cover 200,000 acres in California this week. Front-line dispatches suggest that, at least at times, they’ve lost the battle. The bodies of two children were found under a wet blanket with the remains of their great-grandmother hovering over them. Three firefighters and one bulldozer operator are dead. More than 700 homes have burned to the ground. Crews have struggled, at least in part, because they have never seen fires behave like this before. “What we’re seeing in California right now is more destructive, larger fires burning at rates that we have historically never seen,” Jonathan Cox, a Cal Fire spokesman, told CNN on Monday morning. Several specific conditions are feeding the inferno. Afternoon temperatures have peaked in the triple digits around Redding, Calif., since early last week. The dew point — a measure of how much moisture is in the air — dropped precipitously through Thursday afternoon until humidity was 10 percent as the temperature reached 110 degrees. On top of that, the soil in Northern California is exceptionally dry. A hotter-than-average summer and a very dry winter have led to tinder-dry vegetation. When it ends Tuesday, this month will become Redding’s hottest July on record, with an average temperature of 86.7 degrees. The energy release component, or how much fuel is available for the fire, is at the highest it has been around Redding since at least 1979. As Earth’s average temperature warms because of human-made climate change, topsoil will continue to dry out, according to the 2017 National Climate Assessment. “The...